Concrete Age – Bardo Thodol (Self-Released)Wednesday, 22nd February 2023
If one was forced to sum Concrete Age up in a single word, it would have to be “unique,” and their latest release Bardo Thodol is no exception. Admittedly, this was this writer’s introduction to the band (despite this being their 8th full-length), being immediately intrigued by the genre description of “Thrash/Power/Melodic Death Metal with Folk influences.” Expecting something in the vein of Legion of the Damned with some Eluveitie mixed in, but finding something so different was a welcome surprise.
The band was initially from Russia when they began in 2010, but relocated to the U.K. in 2014. Ilia Morozov is the only original member of the band and the mastermind behind all the extraordinary ethnic instruments that will grace the listeners ears. He’s also one of the guitarists and the vocalist. The other guitarist is Boris Zahariev, with Giovanni Ruiu on Bass, and Davide Marini on Drums. Now that introductions are over, let’s dive into this record.
“Hex” immediately sets the tone with low chanting vocalizations reminiscent of Tibetan monks, then adding in an eastern guitar sound puts the listener in the right frame of mind to embark on this sonic journey. Soon we are blasting away into distorted guitars, but not losing the cleaner sounding eastern guitar aesthetic. The contrast mixes perfectly, even if it doesn’t seem like it should, like Old Bay and ice cream (yes, I’m from Maryland). Every song leaves the listener guessing what will be around the corner. Songs like “True Believer” start out with more of a folk focus, but rapidly transition to a punchy, almost blackened death metal feel, but then peacefully transition out the way it came in. There is even time to breathe on “Trite Puti,” being an instrumental that is timed perfectly to allow the listener a moment to process before being sung a “Lullaby for a Deadman.” The title track is clearly about Bardo Thodol, which often is called “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” and is intended to guide one through death and rebirth (this is a very very rough generalization, click on the song title to read more about it). The album closes out with “Bezdna ot ludost,” which is Bulgarian for “an abyss of madness” (guitarist Boris Zahariev is Bulgarian) which is aptly named as this is a fast and impressive track to showcase the band’s skills with many of the ethnic instruments and guitars.
Morozov’s vocals overall tend to be thrash oriented, but throughout this release we are treated to many death growls, black metal snarls, and even some hints of metallic hardcore (there might also be some vocalizations akin to Tibetan throat singing, but it might be something along the lines of a didgeridoo). His versatility both vocally and with unconventional instruments is truly profound. Having such an eclectic member can sometimes overshadow the rest of the band, but this is not the case with Concrete Age. No, instead we have a project that clearly works together as equals. Throughout we can very clearly hear the pounding of the bass guitar, the smashing power of the drums and the rhythm driving the songs just as much as the lead.
Having now also listened to the rest of Concrete Age’s catalog, it’s become painfully clear they are long overdue a breakout record and it really feels like Bardo Thodol might be the one to launch these metal monks into the stratosphere.